Scripture Reference: Acts 19:1-41
Suggested Emphasis: It is wrong to practice things like sorcery, magic, witchcraft, horoscopes or anything else that acknowledges and gives importance to a power other than God.
During his third missionary journey Paul returned to Ephesus and spent three years there. He taught about Jesus in the synagogue and in a city school. Some of the most unusual miracles in the Book of Acts occurred during Paul’s stay in Ephesus. They were so convincing that magicians and sorcerers burned all of their expensive sorcery books and turned to God. So many people stopped worshipping idols (and buying idol statues) that a silversmith named Demetrius led a riot against Paul.
Paul was both an apostle and a missionary. After spending time with his sending and sponsoring church (Antioch) he now sets off over land for what has come to be called his 3rd Missionary Journey (Acts 18:23). Before arriving in Ephesus Paul passed through places where he had established churches on his 1st Missionary Journey and 2nd Missionary Journey. This 3rd Journey will eventually take Paul through Macedonia and Greece with a notable stop in Troas (where young Eutychus falls from a window) before Paul returns to Jerusalem.
But now, upon his arrival in Ephesus, Paul meets twelve followers of Jesus who are teaching the baptism of John the Baptist. They must not have previously met any of the thousands of Jewish Christians who had heard or heard about the Christian baptism the Apostle Peter preached about in the Sermon at Pentecost. These men were following Jesus but probably had not connected baptism with his resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Paul explained these things to them and baptised them in the name of Jesus Christ. Similar to the case where Cornelius Became a Christian the Holy Spirit displayed his power by causing these men to “speak in tongues” (instant ability to speak another language despite never having studied it) and prophesy (declare inspired truth from God).
As usual Paul first began teaching in the Jewish synagogue. And, as usual, some at the synagogue angrily refused to accept that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah sent by God. So, after three months, Paul and those that believed moved to a public lecture hall (Hall of Tyrannus) where Paul continued teaching for two years.
The Good News of Jesus heard by visitors passing through this important and busy city was spread to an every-widening audience as people travelled about. But the “Good News” was actually “Bad News” for the evil spirits and many practitioners of false worship in Ephesus. God made his superior divine power clearly known so that even sorcerers and those that followed this practice confessed their sins. Many sorcerers made their confessions publicly by burning their sorcery scrolls.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Acts 19:11-12, NIV
Some travelling Jewish spiritualists unsuccessfully tried to take advantage of this new popular power by claiming to cast out demons “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches”. In one almost humorous occasion, as they were attempting to exorcise a demon from a man, the demon actually spoke up and said to these men, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” The demon-possessed man then overpowered and even beat them so that they had to run out of the house naked and bleeding. (Acts 19:13-17).
The excavated ruins of ancient Ephesus are located near modern-day Selcuk, Turkey. Ephesus was known as the city which contained one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”-the Temple of Artemis. In some versions of the Bible the alternative name of the Roman goddess, Diana, is used in this passage as she was sometimes equated with the Greek goddess, Artemis.
Who would want to purchase silver images of Artemis if Jesus was more powerful? One of the silversmiths, Demetrius, began campaigning against Paul. This culminated in an angry shouting crowd gathered in the city amphitheatre. For about two hours everyone was chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
Paul desperately wanted to address the crowd but his companions and even the friends he had made among officials in the province kept him from entering the area. Finally, the city clerk was able to disperse the crowd by reminding them that Demetrius could take the matter to court if he wished and that no one would want to be charged with rioting. Ephesus was a Roman city. If Rome heard that there were riots in the city then everyone would suffer the repercussions.
Following this uprising Paul met with the disciples then left Ephesus.
Special Note to the Teacher:
The Bible is clear about God’s supremacy but, even in the same family or church, there may be different interpretations of how that applies to various literature, television shows or movies that children are exposed to. What one family might allow as “harmless fantasy” another might steer their children away from as actually spiritually harmful or wrong. So be respectful of this and apply discernment and diplomacy.
But, wherever one places boundaries, it would be wrong to deny or avoid the important subject of spiritual warfare. I would suggest becoming familiar with the subject through articles such as this one at http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-occult.html , especially if you are teaching older or very curious children. And remember that we do not have to live in fear. God is above all powers and gives us what we need to fight any trick Satan throws our way.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Find examples of horoscopes in magazines or newspapers and bring them to class. (You might think of other examples that are familiar to the children (psychics, crystal balls, etc.) Discuss the fact that people who use these try to predict the future. “Some people say that there are hidden powers or that the stars can tell them what will happen in the future. Let’s read what the bible says about the future–read Ecclesiastes 8:7. No one knows what will happen in the future except for God. In today’s story we will learn about a time when Paul visited a city where lots of people thought they could do sorcery and magic and predicting the future.”
(Note: This story contains a lot of elements. If you are teaching younger children I would suggest choosing only one part of the story to concentrate on.)
Paul was a missionary. The church in the city of Antioch sent Paul on a number of “Missionary Journeys” to tell people about Jesus. Today we are going to learn about something that happened on Paul’s “3rd Missionary Journey”. In the first part of the journey Paul went back to places where he had been before. He taught the Christians how to have a strong faith.
After visiting these churches Paul arrived in the very large and important city of Ephesus. Ephesus was famous for a large and beautiful temple built to honour the goddess of Artemis. Many people there worshipped false gods and others practiced sorcery.
When Paul arrived at the city of Ephesus he met a group of disciples. Disciples are followers of Jesus. As Paul listened to them he realised that they only knew part of the truth about baptism.
Paul explained to them that now, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, they could have their sins washed away at baptism.
Not only would their sins be forgiven through baptism but at baptism the Holy Spirit would come and live in them. The Holy Spirit would be with them all of the time helping them to follow God.
The men were so happy to hear about this and wanted to be baptised in the name of Jesus. After their baptism an amazing thing happened. The Holy Spirit displayed his wonderful power to them through two miracles. By the power of the Spirit the men began to immediately speak in other languages that they had never studied in a language class. This is called “speaking in tongues”. And then they began saying messages straight from God. This miracle is called “prophesying”.
These special miracles helped these men understand that God’s Spirit was for everyone who choses to follow and obey him. There were many evil spirits in the city of Ephesus but they were nothing compared to the power of the Holy Spirit of God!
For three months Paul taught in the synagogue where the Jews gathered. He told them that the promises of God had come true and that Jesus was the Messiah who had come to save the world from sin. Some people believed but others became angry and did not believe in Jesus.
After this Paul started teaching in a school called the “School of Tyrannus.” He taught there for two years and many people heard about Jesus during that time.
God did some amazing miracles through Paul in the city of Ephesus. If Paul touched a handkerchief and then a sick person touched it then the sick person would become well. And if they had evil spirits then the evil spirits would leave them.
If a demon lived inside a person then the demon could make the person do evil things. There were seven Jewish men passing through Ephesus and they noticed how Paul seemed to have special power over demons (evil spirits). The seven men didn’t believe in Jesus but they wanted to have special powers too. So, when they met a man who had a demon living inside of him they decided to try to use the name of Jesus like magic. They tried to make the demon leave the man by just saying the name of Jesus.
Then something very unexpected happened! The demon inside the man made the man speak. The demon said, “I know Jesus and I know Paul. But who are you?”
The men were shocked and very afraid. They realised that they did not have power over demons like Jesus did after all.
In fact, the demon caused the man to attack all seven men and beat them up. He even tore their clothes off so that the men ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
News of this and of the other miracles spread all around Ephesus. They realised the power of God is stronger than all of their false gods. Those who had been following magic and sorcery were afraid because the powers of magic and sorcery were nothing compared to the power of God. A number of those who had practiced sorcery even made a fire and burned their wizard and sorcery instruction books.
God does not want Christians to treat other powers like they are as good as or better than him.
Many people respected Paul and listened to him when he preached about Jesus. But there were some people that were angry. The silversmiths made nice souvenirs of the city and sold them to visitors. People would buy statures of the goddess, Athina, or miniature versions of the temple. One silversmith, Demetrius, began to worry that people would stop buying the souvenirs.
Demetrius started telling other silversmiths about it. He said that if people started believing what Paul said about Jesus then they would stop believing in the goddess Athina. They would stop buying statues and souvenirs. All the silversmiths would go out of business.
More and more people started listening to Demetrius and soon there was a big angry crowd gathered at the city stadium.
They even grabbed two of Paul’s friends and brought them into the stadium. Paul wanted to go and help them but his other friends told him that he must stay away from the angry crowd.
When one Jewish man tried to talk the crowd got so angry that they responded by chanting this for two hours straight, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
The entire city was in an uproar. Finally, the city clerk calmed them down enough so they could hear him speak. He reminded them that there were city courts where Demetrius could make his complaints. He also told them that if they had a riot then he would have to report it to the Romans. (That meant Roman soldiers would come and everyone would be in trouble.)
Finally, everyone calmed down and began returning to their homes. But Paul knew the time had come to leave Ephesus. There were now many Christians in Ephesus and they could continue telling people about Jesus. He met with Paul met with his friends and then left the city. He would continue his mission work in other places.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Additional Visual Aids for this Story:
- Paul in Ephesus_Slide Show to download
(.pptx 8.8 MB file size)
- Paul in Ephesus_Slide Show to download_older format
(.ppt 9.1 MB file size)
- Paul in Ephesus_Visual Aid to download and print
(.pdf 5.2 MB file size)
- What was the name of the city where Paul spent two years teaching in a school? Ephesus
- What did the sorcerers and magicians in Ephesus do with their expensive scrolls and books? Burned them
- Why did the sorcerers and magicians in Ephesus burn their scrolls and books? They learned that God is the only real power.
- Why is it wrong to trust sorcery, horoscopes, witchcraft, and things like that? Because only God has the real power and he wants us to trust in Him.
- My God is So Big
- He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
- Oh Be Careful
- Shake the Devil Off
- Roll the Gospel Chariot
- I Can Be a Missionary
- This Little Light of Mine
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Enlarge a map of Paul’s third missionary journey and circle the city of Antioch where the journey began. Then circle Ephesus. This map can be developed more in the next lessons.
- Use a bible concordance, research online or find books at the local library that discuss the ancient city of Ephesus
- Discuss modern forms of sorcery, magic, etc. Make posters depicting some of these. You might glue on horoscope columns from magazines. Have the children use large lettering to write the words of Ecclesiastes 8:7 on the poster. “Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come? NIV”
- Make a relief map of Paul’s Journeys featuring the place in today’s story. If you are studying about Paul’s journies over a few lessons then you could add more details to the map each time you learn about another stop on the journey. Instructions on how to make a relief map at http://www.squidoo.com/salt-dough-maps
- Make a scroll. Click here for instructions. Have children write “God is the Only True Power” on it. They could write other powers (sorcery, magic, horoscopes) around the edges in small lettering and then cross them out.
- If you are teaching a series of lessons about Paul then you might draw an outline of him on a large poster or paper and then add descriptive words about him each time you study a new lesson (printable picture here). Alternatively, you might draw a new outline shape of him each week on a whiteboard or even with a stick in the sand (if you are outside) and guide children in adding descriptive words or events inside the outlined shape as a review. Lessons from the life of Paul are:
- Saul (Paul) Becomes a Christian
- The Antioch Church
- Paul’s 1st Journey- Lystra
- Paul’s 2nd Journey-Macedonian Vision
- Lydia Becomes a Christian
- A Jailer Becomes a Christian
- The Noble Bereans
- Paul Preaches in Athens-Mars Hill
- Priscilla and Aquila
- Paul’s 3rd Journey- Ephesus
- Eutychus Falls from a Window
- Paul Goes to Jerusalem
- Paul’s Nephew Uncovers a Plot
- Paul’s Trial
- Paul’s Shipwreck
- Paul Writes Letters from Prison
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets (Calvary Curriculum)
- Map of Paul’s 3rd journey (deeperstudy.com)
- Craft: Doorknob hanger of Paul (sundayschoolcrafts.net)
- (The Riot) A good selection of puzzles and games to print (gardenofpraise.com)
- Review: Create a “passport” that covers the life of Paul. Good visual ideas and activities. Could be split up to go with several lessons or taught all together as a review of previous lessons concerning Paul found at (kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.co.nz)